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Paraw Regatta Festival - March
Guimaras, Iloilo city

Paraw Regatta Festival

Every year during the second week of March, thousands and thousands of people line the beaches of Iloilo City and Guimaras to watch the Paraw Regatta Festival. The Paraw Regatta festival is actually a boat race characterized mainly by the outrigger (paraw) boats that speed between Iloilo City and the nearby island of Guimaras.

Colorful and vibrant sailboats

The highest selling point of the event is the idea of a hot and breezy day at the beach full of hundreds of colorful and vibrant sailboats. It can contain designs with subjects about literally anything under the sun. In fact, the race is an awaited event among photographers all over the country.

The Paraw regatta festival does not only serve artistic purposes. As soon as the opening remarks are over with, and as soon the signal to go is given, the event becomes a thrilling and exciting race. The chase is actually very structured, already with rules, umpires and kibitzers. Athletic people all around the Iloilo city and province race the most colorful paraw boats, attracting foreigners to join Iloilo’s locals in this festival of Paraw Regatta.

The boats have to sail a 36.5 kilometer distance and is divided into to three categories according waterline length. Furthermore, boats competing in category A have to be made of indigenous materials, while those in category B and C can be made of aluminum. These start and end in the beach of Tatoy’s Manokan, Iloilo’s most famous restaurant.

Paraw Regatta festival origins

The first goes back to the pre-Spanish area, narrated in a Maragtas legend, when 10 Bornean chieftains (datus) fled the despotic Sultan Makatunaw. These 10 datus, led by Datu Puti, reached Panay in 1212 AD. In Panay, they traded with Haring Marikudo, the local Aeta king. The Paraw Regatta festival copies the boats brought to Panay by these chieftains.

The second origin reenacts a 16th century sailboat race that had been an entertainment for the Iloilos city then.

The Iloilo Paraw Regatta was renamed Iloilo-Guimaras Paraw Regatta in 1993, one year after the Guimaras sub province became a full-fledged province. Thus, the festival has served its provinces’ tourism richly.

The Paraw Regatta Festival reminds the Iloilo people of their roots in the dark-skined people who settled in their islands a long time ago. It also is there to remind people of the visayan coral-reefs and marine life that now need protection and preservation. Aptly, the residents of Iloilo and Guimaras are mostly fishermen.

The contemporary Paraw regatta festival also includes added features such as the Optimist Sailboat Race and Pinta Paraw. The Optimist Sailboat race this time is between kids below 15 years old who have converted soapboxes into boats. Despite its being only a 6-lap race, this addition to the Paraw Regatta festival.

Adapted from an article by Rafael Jose Olympia

Nero C. Lujan “Iloilo Strait Becomes Canvas of History in Annual Regatta”

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